Kodendera Subayya Thimayya
General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya.jpg
General KS Thimayya
3rd Chief of the Army Staff
In office
8 May 1957 – 7 May 1961
PresidentRajendra Prasad
Prime MinisterJawaharlal Nehru
Preceded byGeneral SM Shrinagesh
Succeeded byGeneral PN Thapar
Personal details
Born(1906-03-31)31 March 1906[1][2]
Madikeri, Coorg, Mysore, British India
Died18 December 1965 (1965-12-19) (aged 59)[3][4]
Military career
Allegiance British India
Service/branch British Indian Army
 Indian Army
Years of service1926 – 1961
General of the Indian Army.svg
Service numberAI-944[5]
Unit19th Hyderabad Regiment (Now Kumaon Regiment)
Commands held
IA Eastern Command.jpg
Eastern Army
IA Southern Command.svg
Southern Army
IA Western Command.svg
Western Army
19th Infantry Division
268th Indian Infantry Brigade
8/19 Hyderabad
IND Padma Bhushan BAR.png
Padma Bhushan
Distinguished Service Order

General Kodendera Subayya Thimayya (1906-1965), DSO was a distinguished soldier of the Indian Army who served as Chief of Army Staff from 1957 to 1961 in the crucial years leading up to the conflict with China in 1962. Gen. Thimayya was the only Indian to command an Infantry brigade in battle during the Second World War and is regarded as the most distinguished combat officer the Indian Army has produced.[6] After the Korean War, Thimayya headed a United Nations unit dealing with the repatriation of prisoners of war. After his retirement from the Army, he was appointed Commander of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus from July 1964 to December 1965 and died in Cyprus while on active duty on 18 December 1965.

Early life and education

Kodandera Subayya Thimayya was born in Madikeri, the district town of Kodagu (formerly known as Coorg), Karnataka, on 31 March 1906, to Subayya and Sitamma.[1][2] His family was one of the leading coffee planters in the area. His mother, Sitamma, was highly educated and a social worker. She was the recipient of Kaisar-e-Hind Medal, in recognition of her work in public service.[7] Thimayya was the third of six children in his family. The eldest was Ponappa (m) (known as Ponnu), then Thimayya (known in the family as Dubbu, and by the British as Timmy), followed by Gangu (f), Dachu (f), Amavva (f) (known as Amie) and finally Somayya (m) (known as Freddie). All the three boys of the family rose to become officers in the Indian Army.[8]

On his father's side, Thimayya belonged to the Kodendera clan to which India's first commander-in-chief Cariappa also belonged (his uncle in fact). His mother, Cheppudi Chittauwa (or Cheppusi Chittavva), was from the Cheppudira family. His wife, Nina Thimayya, was a recipient of the Kaisar-e-Hind Medal for her philanthropic contribution during the 1935 Quetta earthquake. His maternal uncle, C.B. Ponnappa, was in the first batch of commissioned Indian officers from the Indore defence school and a batchmate of Cariappa. Desiring that he receive a good education, his family sent Thimayya, at the age of eight years, to St. Joseph's College in Coonoor, a convent run by Irish brothers. Later, Thimayya was sent to Bishop Cotton Boys' School in Bangalore, along with his brothers. After completing school, Thimayya was sent to the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College, a necessary stepping stone for a commission in the Indian Army. His elder brother Ponnappa (later joined INA) as well as younger brother Somayya (died in a mine accident in 1947–48 Kashmir operations) also joined the Indian army. Following his graduation from RIMC, "Timmy", as he was affectionately known, was one of only six Indian cadets selected for further training at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.

Early career

After completing his training, he was commissioned into the Indian Army on 4 February 1926 as a Second Lieutenant. Amongst the other newly commissioned officers in his batch was Pran Nath Thapar, who would one day succeed Thimayya as Chief of Army Staff.[9] Thimayya was subsequently attached to the Highland Light Infantry as was the norm then, prior to a permanent posting with a regiment of the British Indian Army. He was soon posted to the 4th Battalion of the 19th Hyderabad Regiment (now Kumaon Regiment), with date from 28 May 1927.[10] Appointed the regimental adjutant in September 1930, Thimayya honed his soldiering skills on that famous training ground in the Northwest Frontier (present-day Pakistan), battling recalcitrant Pathan tribals.

In January 1935, Thimayya married Nina Cariappa (no relation to K M Cariappa). On 20 March 1936, they had a daughter, Mireille. The same April, Thimayya was posted as an Adjutant at the University Training Corps in Madras, as a fitting example for young Indian undergraduates interested in joining the Indian Army, of what a good soldier should be.

Second World War

After this tenure, Thimayya was posted to his battalion in Singapore. In early 1941, he was promoted to the acting rank of Major,[11] and at his request, was transferred to India in October. Thimayya was posted as the Second-in-Command of a new raising at the Hyderabad Regimental Centre in Agra. He was then detailed to attend the Staff College at Quetta where he and his wife had earlier made a name for themselves by selfless service during the 1935 Quetta earthquake. He then served as GSO2 (Ops) (a Grade II Staff Officer) of 25th Indian Division, the first Indian officer to get this coveted staff appointment.

His infantry division was conducting jungle warfare training and was preparing to go into Burma to face the Japanese Army during the Second World War, serving in the Second Arakan campaign. In Burma, he was posted to his old regiment as Commanding Officer of 8/19th Hyderabad, which he led with outstanding success in battle. For a short while the battalion was under the command of the 3rd Commando Brigade, with Brigadier C. R. Hardy at the helm, who during the height of a battle presented a trophy to the battalion. It was a green beret — the command's head dress — with a little typed message on a card, "We cannot buy anything here but we would like you to accept this as a token of our great admiration for the bravery and achievement of your battalion." For his outstanding service in battle, he was awarded the much coveted Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O) and also a Mention-in-Dispatches.

Thimayya represented the country during the surrender of the Japanese in Singapore, followed by the surrender of the Japanese in the Philippines. At the ceremony of Japanese surrender in Singapore, he signed on behalf of India. He was awarded the 'Keys to Manila' when he was sent to the Philippines. His innate talents of professional soldiering and leadership were soon recognized by Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army. He was specially selected to lead the 268th Indian Infantry Brigade as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan after World War II. He got this assignment due to his outstanding battle experience as a Brigadier and being the only Indian to command a battle formation in the field. As a matter of policy, the British avoided giving operational command to Indians. Thimmayya was the only exception.

As an independent brigade, the 268th had done excellent work in the Burma Campaign and was detailed as part of BRINDIV led by Maj Gen D. T. "Punch" Cowan. Brig. Thimayya proved to be an outstanding commander and his diplomatic skills emerged as he had to deal with General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Allied Commander of the Southwest Pacific Theatre, the other Allies and the vanquished Japanese. Thimayya's personality, charm of manners and unassailable reputation, impressed the Japanese of the calibre of Indian commanders. Thimayya was called on to defuse the sit-down strike by the 2nd Battalion, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles at the palace of the Emperor of Japan in Tokyo when the battalion refused to obey its British officers.

As Indian Independence approached, he was recalled to India by then Commander-in-chief of British India, Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck.

Role in independent India

He returned to India in 1947, during the Partition, as member of the committee to agree to the allotment of weapons, equipment and regiments that were to remain in India, or to be allotted to Pakistan. Soon after the commission was completed, he was promoted to the acting rank of Major-General in September 1947 and was then assigned the command of the 4th Infantry Division and also to take over the Punjab Boundary Force, dealing with the exodus and intake of refugees fleeing to their respective countries. In 1948 he was one of the active officers in the actions against the forces of Pakistan in the conflict over Kashmir. His next appointment was command of the 19th Infantry Division in Jammu & Kashmir where he succeeded in driving the raiders and the Pakistan Army out of the Kashmir Valley. Personally leading the attack in the forward-most tank, the surprise attack on Zoji La on 1 November 1948 by a brigade with Stuart Light Tanks of the 7th Light Cavalry,[12] succeeded in driving out the entrenched raiders and Pakistan Army regulars and the eventual capture of Dras, Kargil and Leh.

Thereafter, Thimayya served as the Commandant of the Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun. On 1 January 1950, he was promoted to substantive major-general from his rank of brigadier.[5] On 1 October 1951, Thimayya was appointed Quartermaster General.[13] The experience gained by him in Japan stood him in good stead when he was specially selected by the United Nations to head the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission in Korea. It was a very sensitive and delicate task dealing with unruly Chinese and Korean prisoners. Here again, through sheer charisma, impartiality, firmness and diplomacy, he completed this task to the satisfaction of the world body. He returned to India and was promoted to General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command, with the rank of Lieutenant-General, in January 1953. In 1954, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan for Civil Service. He took over the reins of the Indian Army on 7 May 1957.[14]

Chief of Army Staff

General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya assumed charge of the Indian Army, as the 6th Chief of the Army Staff, on 7 May 1957. He briefly resigned his post in 1959 over a dispute with V. K. Krishna Menon, the then Minister of Defence (India). Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru refused to accept his resignation and persuaded him into withdrawing it. However, little action was taken on Thimayya's recommendations and he continued as the Army Chief till his retirement on 7 May 1961, completing 35 years of distinguished military service. Hence retired from the army in 1961, almost 15 months before the Chinese invasion of India in November 1962.[14]

After retirement

After retirement from the Indian Army, the United Nations sought his services yet once again when he was appointed as the Commander of UN Forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP) in July 1964. He died during his tenure at UNFICYP in December 1965 and his mortal remains were flown to Bangalore for the last rites.

The street perpendicular to East Street (a road parallel to MG road in Pune), Richmond Road in Bangalore, and the main road through Larnaca/Cyprus (East to West) were renamed as Gen Thimmayya Road in his memory. The road perpendicular to Hunsur Road in Mysore is also named as General Thimmayya Road. The Republic of Cyprus, also honored him by issuing a commemorative stamp in his memory in 1966.[15] The General K.S. Thimayya Memorial Trust, a Trust instituted by some Old Boys of Bishop Cotton Boys' School, annually hold the General K S Thimayya Memorial Lecture Series in his memory.[16] General Thimayya enjoys an unmatched legacy in the Indian Army. Of all the eulogies for him, the late Lieutenant General Premindra Singh Bhagat, VC (Retd.) summed it up best, "A General Thimayya is not born in every generation. The likes of him there will seldom be a soldier. The General is a man's man, the Army his soul and his soul the Army."[17] General Thimayya's house "Sunny Side" in Madikeri has been converted into a museum and a war memorial.[18] It was inaugurated in February 2021 in the presence of the President and Chief of Defence Staff.[19]

Awards and decorations

Padma Bhushan General Service Medal 1947 Indian Independence Medal
Distinguished Service Order 1939–1945 Star Burma Star War Medal 1939–1945

Dates of rank

Insignia Rank Component Date of rank
British Army (1920-1953) OF-1a.svg
Second Lieutenant British Indian Army 4 February 1926[9]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-1b.svg
Lieutenant British Indian Army 4 May 1928[20]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-2.svg
Captain British Indian Army 4 February 1935[21]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-3.svg
Major British Indian Army 1941 (acting)
1 April 1942 (temporary)[11]
4 February 1943 (substantive)[22]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-4.svg
Lieutenant-Colonel British Indian Army 19 May 1944 (acting)
19 August 1944 (temporary)
1 October 1946 (war-substantive)[11]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-5.svg
Colonel British Indian Army 1 April 1945 (temporary)[23]
British Army (1928-1953) OF-6.svg
Brigadier British Indian Army 1 April 1945 (acting)[24]
1 October 1946 (temporary)[11]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-3.svg
Lt General Indian Army 15 August 1947[note 1][25]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-7.svg
Major-General Indian Army September 1947 (acting)
1 January 1950 (substantive; seniority from 4 February 1949)[5][note 1]
Major General of the Indian Army.svg
Major-General Indian Army 26 January 1950 (recommissioning and change in insignia)[25][26]
Lieutenant General of the Indian Army.svg
Lieutenant-General Indian Army January 1953
General of the Indian Army.svg
Indian Army 8 May 1957[27]


  1. ^ a b Upon independence in 1947, India became a Dominion within the British Commonwealth of Nations. As a result, the rank insignia of the British Army, incorporating the Tudor Crown and four-pointed Bath Star ("pip"), was retained, as George VI remained Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces. After 26 January 1950, when India became a republic, the President of India became Commander-in-Chief, and the Ashoka Lion replaced the crown, with a five-pointed star being substituted for the "pip."
  1. ^ a b "Home of General Thimmayya dedicated to nation in Kodagu". United News of India. UNI. 31 March 2018. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  2. ^ a b K A, Adithya (31 March 2019). "General Thimmayya's 113th birth anniversary today". Deccan Herald. No. 31 March 2019. Deccan Herald News Service. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Biography of General Thimmayya". Karnataka.com. Karnataka. 31 March 2018. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  4. ^ "General Thimmayya". Frontline The Hindu. Frontline The Hindu. 31 March 2018. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)" (PDF). The Gazette of India. 24 June 1950. p. 70.
  6. ^ Jacob, J.F.R (2011). An Odyssey in War and Peace. Roli Books Pvt. Ltd. p. 17. ISBN 978-81-7436-840-9.
  7. ^ Singh 2005, p. 417.
  8. ^ Singh 2005, p. 87.
  9. ^ a b "No. 33130". The London Gazette. 5 February 1926. p. 888.
  10. ^ "No. 33300". The London Gazette. 25 August 1927. p. 5109.
  11. ^ a b c d Indian Army List Special Edition for August 1947. Government of India Press. 1947. pp. 146–147.
  12. ^ Khanduri, Chandra B. (1969). Thimmayya:An Amazing Life. New Delhi: Centre for Armed Historical Research, United Service Institution of India, New Delhi through Knowledge World. p. 137. ISBN 81-87966-36-X. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  13. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 13 October 1951. p. 195.
  14. ^ a b "When an Army Chief almost quit". The Sunday Tribune - Spectrum. 16 April 2006. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  15. ^ "Cyprus Stamp Issue: General Thimmayya". Retrieved 29 December 2009.
  16. ^ "General K S Thimayya Memorial Lecture Series". Old Boys of Cottons. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
  17. ^ "General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya". General Thimayya Memorial Trust.
  18. ^ "When General Thimayya's Grandson Comes Calling At 'Sunny Side'". Star of Mysore. 18 April 2019.
  19. ^ "President inaugurates museum dedicated to pride of Kodagu General Thimayya in Madikeri". The New Indian Express. 6 February 2021. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  20. ^ "No. 33396". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 June 1928. p. 4268.
  21. ^ "No. 34142". The London Gazette. 15 March 1935. p. 1810.
  22. ^ "No. 36042". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 June 1943. p. 2579.
  23. ^ The Quarterly Army List: December 1946 (Part I). HM Stationery Office. 1946. pp. 220q–r.
  24. ^ The Quarterly Army List: December 1946 (Part I). HM Stationery Office. 1946. pp. 2511a–c.
  25. ^ a b "New Designs of Crests and Badges in the Services" (PDF). Press Information Bureau of India - Archive. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 August 2017.
  26. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 11 February 1950. p. 227.
  27. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)" (PDF). The Gazette of India. 18 May 1957. p. 124.
Military offices Preceded byS. M. Shrinagesh Chief of the Army Staff 1957–1961 Succeeded byPran Nath Thapar Preceded bySant Singh General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Command 1956–1957 Succeeded byS. P. P. Thorat Preceded byS. M. Shrinagesh General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Southern Command 1955–1956 Succeeded byPran Nath Thapar Preceded byKalwant Singh General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Command 1954–1955 Succeeded byKalwant Singh Preceded byS. M. Shrinagesh General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Command Jan 1953 - Aug 1953 Succeeded byKalwant Singh Preceded byThakur Mahadeo Singh Commandant of the Indian Military Academy 1950 - 1951 Succeeded byMohinder Singh Wadalia